A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: Book Review

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Publication Details: December 9th 2003 by Simon and Schuster

A Victorian boarding school story, a Gothic mansion mystery, a gossipy romp about a clique of girlfriends, and a dark other-worldly fantasy--jumble them all together and you have this complicated and unusual first novel.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.

A Great and Terrible Beauty was a quick read for me. I'm always interested in historical fiction so I quite enjoyed reading this. It got me curious enough to continue with the trilogy. However, I think I found some semblance with The Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter.

Anyway, the build up of story was quite slow as only snippets of what's really happening were given chapter by chapter. I guess the way it was written gave way to establishing first the background without giving too much. Thus, it gave the reader something to look forward to in the next two books.

I'm also looking forward to finding out more about Ms. Moore and Kartik. As for Gemma, her character is still learning. I think her turning point was only at the last chapter, so I'm looking forward to more development in the next book.